India’s telecom regulatory agency banned Facebook’s Free Basics program on Monday. The Free Basics program allows free Internet access, but limits it to Facebook, weather, and job listings. This would violate the principles of net neutrality, which says that all Internet traffic must be treated and priced the same. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India agreed with this and rejected the program.
The move is a blow to Facebook which has been aiming to expand its global user base, especially in India. In a statement, Facebook said it was “disappointed with the outcome, we will continue our efforts to eliminate barriers and give the unconnected an easier path to the Internet.” The program has also met legal hurdles in Egypt and resistance in Zambia.
Facebook’s aggressive tactics in an attempt to ensure regulatory approval have been seen as possibly hurting the company’s chances. CEO Mark Zuckerburg wrote an op-ed for the Times of India and provided form letters to submit for public input. The commissioner, however, was annoyed at the multitude of largely similar letters.